June 16, 2013

Marvel Reviews: Guardians of the Galaxy #3

imageGuardians of the Galaxy #3
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Steve McNiven and Sara Pichelli
Publisher: Marvel

Of all the space based books currently pumping out of Marvel Now!, Guardians of the Galaxy is easily my favorite. The series has been consistently good, balancing epic scope with heartfelt camaraderie, and makes for one of the more entertaining team books currently on the stands. Issue #3 finds the ragtag band in yet another precarious situation, though by book’s end it’s safe to say the tables have turned.

Captured after their successful defense of Earth (which violated a newly instituted space treaty), the Guardians find themselves at the mercy of Star Lord’s imperial father, King J-Son. The Spartax ruler and overall shady-face declares his son a prisoner of war and sentences the team to some hellacious confinement; obviously Father’s Day is not a popular holiday on Spartax! What follows is a brisk, action packed issue as the squad works to escape from custody, using increasingly awesome means to turn the tides.

Bendis again shows his mastery of superhero banter as the heroes ping-pong off one another in humorous fashion. No matter how dire the situation gets, the Guardians never seem truly fazed, and it’s that smugness that gives the book its life. It’s not that they’re cocky (well, maybe a bit), but rather that they have the utmost faith in themselves and their companions. There is a strong sense of family invoked in this issue, and Bendis crafts some uniquely tender moments (Groot!). Alas, the characters really aren’t given much to do this issue as the main focus is on the outside forces conspiring against them. This works great in terms of advancing the plot, but with three issues down I hoped to gain more understanding of the Guardians themselves. Gamora and Drax in particular feel woefully underutilized, as their purpose seems to be “hit this, slash that.” Bendis has done such a great job developing these characters, but at this point I want more insight and less token teammate. Also, why is Iron Man on this team again? He gets all the lines, but thus far has been more of a nuisance than an asset.

Art duties are shared by Steve McNiven and Sara Pichelli this issue, and luckily the resulting mix is pretty seamless. McNiven’s character work is again a highlight, but it’s his sense of scale that really shines. From the sweeping view of Spartax to the grandiose cosmic scenery, McNiven makes Guardians truly feel like an otherworldly space epic. I’ve often heard Guardians of the Galaxy referred to as the Star Wars of the Marvel Universe, and this chapter definitely earns that comparison. The series seems to be leading away from Earth, which makes me hopeful that plenty of new worlds are on the horizon.

Guardians of the Galaxy #3 is an entertaining read, punctuated with solid action and fun character beats. This book has the chance of moving from good to great, so here’s hoping Bendis avoids being a Glavnar and continues to flesh out the characters he knows so well.

Jeff Lake



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